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California Penal Code § (Section) 518 - Extortion

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California Penal Code § (Section) 518 – Extortion

California Penal Code (CPC) §518 – Extortion –The basic form of Extortion in California occurs when a person forces another person to part with property or makes another person do something through unlawful threats or force. This is “Extortion By Threat Or Force.” Blackmail is its best-known form. Extortion can also occur when a person makes an official do something using unlawful threats or force or when an official unlawfully makes someone do something while claiming the official right to do it.

Felony Extortion may be punished in California with two, three, or four years in county jail, a fine of up to $10,000, and/or Felony Probation, which permits a person convicted of Extortion to serve at least part of his or her sentence in the community while being supervised. A judge can revoke Probation and make anyone convicted serve her or his full sentence, if the terms of a Felony Probation are violated.

What Does California Penal Code §518 (Extortion By Threat Or Force) Prohibit?

In sum, to be guilty of Extortion By Threat Or Force under California Penal Code §518, you must:

  • Threaten or use force against someone or claim official right to make someone do something when you don't have the right to do it (making the victim act “under color of official right” [1]);
  • Intend to make the victim give you something valuable or perform an official act for you;
  • Make the victim consent to giving you something valuable or performing an official act; AND,
  • Actually make the victim give you something valuable or perform an official act.

Defining “Extortion” Under California Penal Code §518

To convict you under CPC §518, the prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • Use Of Threat, Fear, Or Force[2]: You threatened to harm the victim, a third party, or property, OR you threatened to accuse the victim (or a relative of the victim) of a crime, OR you threatened to expose a crime of the victim's, OR threatened to attribute something offensive to the victim, OR you threatened to expose a secret of the victim's, OR you threatened to report the victim's immigration status (or suspected status); OR,
  • Acting Under Color of Official Right: You, a public officer, wrongfully took money or property that wasn't due to you (or to your office), whether or not taken by force, threats or fear; AND,
  • Intent: You used force or fear with the intention of making the victim give you valuable property or performing an official act; AND,
  • Consent: The force or fear involved was enough to get the victim to consent to parting with valuable property or to providing an official act[3]; AND,
  • Receipt Of Valuable Property Or An Official Act: The victim provided something of value or performed an official act for you.[4]

An example of Extortion By Threat Or Force might prove helpful.

Imagine that Victim Vincent sells illegal drugs out of his house. The only person who knows (besides Vincent's clients) is his neighbor, Defendant Danny. One day, in the midst of financial troubles, Danny approaches Vincent with a demand:  Vincent must pay Danny for silence about Vincent's drug sales or Danny will tell the police. Vincent agrees and pays Danny $100. Has Defendant Danny violated §518?

Conclusion: Danny used a threat to create a reasonable fear that he would report Vincent's crime if he wasn't paid for silence. He intended to make Vincent give him something valuable (he was, after all, having financial troubles when he approached Vincent), Vincent consented to paying Danny for silence, and Vincent actually paid Danny. Therefore, Danny has violated §518 of the California Penal Code.

Penalties For Extortion Under California Penal Code §518

Extortion under the California Penal Code is a felony crime.  Extortion may be punished under current law with two (2), three (3), or four (4) years in county jail and a fine of up to $10,000. Felony Probation, which allows the defendant to serve part of his or her sentence outside of jail, may also be granted by judges as they believe appropriate. Probation can be revoked, if the terms are violated.

Aggravating factors under the California Penal Code

Aggravating factors have the potential to increase the penalty for committing Extortion, such as in Section 525 (extortion from an elderly person), or Section 186.22(e)(19) (Extortion connected with gang activity), which allows Extortion to be punished under the “Three Strikes” law, if the right facts are present.[6] 

California Penal Code §518 describes the basic version of Extortion, but in §§522 and 523 there are two similar forms, “Extortion Of Signature” and “Extortion By Threatening Letter.” The Attempted Extortion statute is §524. Misdemeanor Extortion, meanwhile, is described in §§526 and 527.

The CPC also contains felony offenses related to Extortion:  Bribery (§§67-68), Kidnapping (§§207, 209-210), Robbery (§211), Carjacking (§215) and Burglary (§459).

Defenses To California Penal Code §518

The three basic defenses to a conviction under California Penal Code §518 are:

You Didn't Do Anything Unlawful To Make The Victim Part With Property Or Perform An Official Act

Example: You have an argument with a friend over money. You demand repayment. Your friend disagrees whether a debt exists. You threaten to take the friend to court. Does this violate §518 of the CPC?

Conclusion: You can't commit extortion by doing what you have a legal right to do.[7] Even though the friend might believe you're trying to extort from him or her, you have the right to go to court over a simple contract dispute. Therefore you wouldn't have done anything unlawful to make the victim part with property or perform an official act. This wouldn't be a violation of California Penal Code §518.

The Accusation Is False

Example: A married man claims you approached him with photos depicting him in a compromising position with a woman who isn't his wife. You had nothing to do with any photographs and you've never seen or approached the man but he accuses you of Extortion. Have you violated California Penal Code [8]§518?

Conclusion:  When the accuser is completely wrong about the identity of the alleged perpetrator, the victim's Extortion charge must be dismissed. Otherwise an innocent person will be sentenced for a crime he or she didn't commit. You would have to be acquitted of Extortion By Threat Or Force, on these facts.

There's Not Enough Evidence To Support Charge of Extortion

Example:  You and a stranger are walking past a public pond. The stranger produces a piece of paper, wads it up and tosses it into the pond, ruining the paper and rendering it worthless. Angered by the litter, you demand (under threat of violence) that the stranger hand you the paper, which the stranger does. The stranger then accuses you of Extortion. Have you violated CPC §518, on these facts?

Conclusion: There's insufficient evidence to convict you under §518 even though every other element of Extortion is present. Section 518 says the property has to be something of value (known as “valuable consideration”[9]). Since the sheet of paper was trash -rendered worthless once wadded up and wet - you never received anything of value. Furthermore, the paper was thrown away in a public place, so the stranger couldn't claim to own it. This evidence is insufficient to support conviction under §518. [10]

California Penal Code §522 – Extortion Of Signature

California Penal Code §522 makes it a crime to extort a signature on any document that would create a right to property, money, or action. This is known as “Extortion of Signature.”

If you're convicted of violating Penal Code §522, the punishment may be:

  • Two (2), three (3), or four (4) years in prison; OR,
  • A fine of up to $10,000 (ten-thousand) dollars; OR,
  • Both a fine and imprisonment.[11]

Note: While California's basic Extortion statute (§518) requires that the victim provide something valuable or an act to complete the crime, Section 522 requires only that the victim signs the extorting document. Nothing valuable need be provided, nor need an act be performed, to be i 

California Jury Instructions – PC §522

To convict you under §522, the People must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you threatened to unlawfully injure or use force against someone else or someone else's property. They must also show that you intended to use fear or force to get the other person's signature on a document, check, or a writing, and that the writing, if it was voluntarily signed, would transfer property or create a debt or a right to legal action. Finally, the People must show that, as a result of the threat or force, the other person signed the document, check or writing.

Example: Defendant Dale makes a threat to reveal a crime committed by Victim Vicky. Dale insists that the only way he'll keep the crime a secret is if Victim Vicky signs a deed that supposedly transfers the ownership of her house to Dale. Vicky signs the deed but Dale has a change of heart and burns the deed before Vicky dies, ensuring that he doesn't get the house. Has Dale violated the California Penal Code?

Conclusion: The signature on the deed was all the law required for the crime of “Extortion Of Signature” to be complete. Dale didn't have to take possession of Vicky's home. Therefore, Dale violated California Penal Code §522.

California Penal Code §523 – Extortion By Threatening Letter

Penal Code §523(a) is a crime known as “Extortion by Threatening Letter.” You can be convicted of violating §523 by sending or delivering a threatening letter to someone, threatening to injure the person or the person's property (or a third person), and, when you send or deliver the letter, intending to get money, property, or an official act from the person.

If you're convicted of violating CPC §523, the punishment can be:

  • Two (2), three (3), or four (4) years in prison; OR,
  • A fine of up to $10,000 (ten-thousand) dollars; OR,
  • Both a fine and imprisonment. [12]

Note: “Extortion By Threatening Letter” requires only the intent to extort property or official acts at the time the letter is sent or received. Unlike PC §518's Extortion, the §523 victim need not actually provide the defendant with anything or perform an official act for the defendant. As long as the threat is in writing, the victim doesn't have to consent to parting with property or performing an official act of any kind.[13]

California Jury Instructions – Extortion By Threatening Letter

To convict you under §523, the People must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you sent or delivered a threatening writing to another person. They must also prove that you threatened in the writing to unlawfully injure the other person or property. Finally, the People must prove that when you sent or delivered the writing, you intended to use fear to obtain money, property, or an official act with the other person's consent.

Example: Unmarried Defendant Dina had several affairs and decides to extort money from her married lovers. Dina writes a series of letters addressed to her married partners. In each she demands money in exchange for keeping silent about their dalliances. Is Dina liable for violating Section 523 of the California Penal Code?

Conclusion: Sending threatening letters and intending to be paid for silence at the time the letters are sent is enough for Defendant Dina to violate Section 523. The victims don't have to agree to pay her.[14]

California Penal Code §524 – Attempted Extortion (Misdemeanor OR Felony)

Attempted Extortion (CPC §524) occurs whenever someone commits an act that would be Extortion but does not complete it. The Attempt doesn't have to be prevented by police or anyone else; the defendant can simply choose not to complete the Extortion. Regardless, if a substantial step towards completing the crime has been taken, the Attempt is complete and the crime has been committed. Extortion can even be committed and still result in an Attempt charge, if the facts are right.[15]

In California, the crime of Attempt can be a Misdemeanor or a Felony, depending on how the prosecutor wants to charge you. The facts allow leeway. This is why Attempted Extortion is known in this state as a “wobbler”[16] offense: the severity of the charge can fall either way.

If you're convicted of Misdemeanor Attempted Extortion, the penalty could be:

  • Imprisonment for as long as one (1) year in county jail; OR,
  • A fine not to exceed $1,000 (one-thousand) dollars; OR,
  • Both a fine and imprisonment.[17]

If you're convicted of Felony Attempted Extortion, the penalty may be:

  • Imprisonment for sixteen (16) months, two (2), or three (3) years in county jail; OR,
  • A fine not to exceed $10,000 (ten-thousand) dollars; OR,
  • Both a fine and imprisonment.

Note: Each version of the Attempt charge (Misdemeanor or Felony) permits Probation.

California Jury Instructions – Attempted Extortion

To convict you under §524, the People must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you took a direct (but unsuccessful) step toward committing a crime. They must also prove you intended to commit it.

Example: Defendant Dale made a threat to reveal a crime committed by Victim Vicky. Dale insisted that he'd keep the crime a secret if Vicky signed a deed that transferred the ownership of her house to Dale. Vicky signed the deed but Defendant Dale had a change of heart and burned the deed before Vicky died, ensuring that he didn't get her house. Can Dale still be convicted of Attempted Extortion under PC §524?

Conclusion: Dale did everything necessary to extort the house from Vicky except take possession of the property. He chose not to but it doesn't matter that Dale wasn't prevented from taking the house. Dale threatened Vicky, got her signature on a deed, and intended it. Dale can be convicted under CPC §524.

California Penal Code §526 – Extortion By Falsified Court Document (Misdemeanor Extortion)

CPC §526 applies whenever a person commits Extortion by presenting a falsified document allegedly created by a court in order to get any form of valuable property or act by the victim.[18]

If you're convicted of violating Penal Code §526, the punishment may be:

  • A term in the county jail or prison not to exceed one (1) year; OR,
  • A fine not to exceed $1,000 (one-thousand) dollars; OR,
  • Both a fine and imprisonment.[19]

Note: The document in question can't actually be from a court. Additionally, every time the defendant presents the fraudulent document, it's a separate offense. 

California Jury Instructions – Misdemeanor Extortion, PC §526

To Convict you under California Penal Code Section 526, the Prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you presented a false document to threaten a person or property. The People must also show that you intended to use fear or force to get something of value to you. Finally, they must prove that, because of the document, the person did what you wanted.

Example: Consider owners of competing businesses, D (Defendant) and V (Victim). Business D's owner threatens to present the partners of Business V's owner with a false court document that says V's owner wrongfully sold all of V's assets to Business D. This would make V's owner liable to his or her partners for the value of the assets. However, Business D's owner also says that if V's owner writes a check to pay D for silence, the document will be withheld. Has Business D's owner violated CPC §526?

Conclusion: If V's owner signs the check to D's owner because of the threat to present a falsified court document, Business D's owner can be convicted of violating Section 526 of the California Penal Code.

Related Offenses

Note: The crimes below are described as “related” because they're frequently charged together and/or have common elements that the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

Bribery

In Bribery the defendant tries to get another person to provide something valuable by offering something of value to the target of the bribe. You can also commit Bribery by soliciting something valuable in exchange for providing valuables or official acts. If you offer to give valuable property or money in exchange for an act or something valuable you're not entitled to, you can be accused of Bribery under California Pena Code Section 67. If you offer to accept a bribe as a public official, you can be in violation of California Penal Code Section 68. Both acts are illegal under the California Penal Code.

California's Penal Code establishes several kinds of Bribery (for public officials, for judges, for witnesses in trial proceedings and others).[20] An example of a statutory punishment for conviction of Bribery is:

  • Imprisonment in the state prison for two (2), three (3), or four (4) years; AND (IN SOME CASES),
  • A restitution fee of at least $2,000 (two-thousand) but no more than $10,000 (ten-thousand) dollars; AND,
  • Loss of government employment; AND,
  • Being prohibited from holding public office.[21]

Acceptance of a bribe (or expression of the intent to bribe) may be either express or implied.[22] More information can be found in the White Collar Crime Attorney section here in the Kann California Defense Group website. If you have questions, contact any of the Kann Defense Group offices in Santa Clarita, Ventura, Encino, Pasadena or Los Angeles/Los Angeles County.

California Jury Instructions – Bribery (Under §67)

To convict you under §67, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you gave or offered a bribe to a government officer, a ministerial official or someone acting on an officer or ministerial official's behalf. They must also show that you intended to unlawfully influence that person's conduct.

Example: Defendant David knows the City Planner of Beach City, Victim Victor. Victor has the power to approve planning projects, one of which includes a parcel of land that David wants to use to build a factory. David tells Victor that David will pay Victor $50,000 if Victor gets David the parcel for his factory. David means exactly what he says. Is David responsible for violating §67 of the California Penal Code?

Conclusion: Since David knew Victor was a Beach City employee at the time he offered a bribe to Victor, made it clear that he'd give the money in exchange for an official act, and intended to unlawfully influence Victor's official act, David may be convicted of violating §67 of the California Penal Code.[23]

Robbery

Under California Penal Code §211, you can be convicted of Robbery if you use force or fear to take property from another person with the intent of not returning it. Robbery is linked to Extortion because both crimes require fear or force to make the victim provide something. The difference is that the robbery victim doesn't have to consent to handing over property or committing an act; an extortion victim under PC §518 must consent in order for all of the elements of the crime to be met.

If you're convicted of violating §211 of the California Penal Code, the punishment for first degree Robbery may be:

  • A state prison term of three (3), four (4), six (6) or nine (9) years.[24]

Robbery in the second degree can carry:

  • A state prison term of two (2), three (3), or five (5) years.[25]

Note: The property must be obtained by the defendant against the victim's will.[26] Additionally, even if the property is eventually returned, a Robbery can occur if the victim is only denied a substantial part of its value or its use.[27] Further information on Robbery can be found here in the Robbery Lawyer section of the Kann California Defense Group website. If you have questions, contact any of the Kann Defense Group offices in Santa Clarita, Ventura, Encino, Pasadena or Los Angeles/Los Angeles County.

California Jury Instructions – Robbery

To be convicted under §211, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you used force or fear to take property that was in the presence of another person. The prosecutor must also show that you took property against that person's will. Finally, the prosecutor must show that you intended to remove property from the person's possession long enough that the person wouldn't enjoy a major part of its value.

Example:  Defendant Denise learns that Victim Vanya is in possession of a check addressed to Vanya. She approaches Vanya and threatens to physically beat Vanya if Vanya doesn't endorse the check and give it to Denise. Vanya does so even though she doesn't want to part with the check.  Denise takes the check and deposits it into her own account. Can Defendant Denise be convicted of violating §211 of the CPC?

Conclusion: Defendant Denise took property that was not her own, from Vanya's immediate presence, against Vanya's will and with the intent of keeping the check for herself (indicated by depositing it into her own account). Denise can be convicted of violating PC §211.[28]

Carjacking

California Penal Code §215 defines “Carjacking” as taking “a motor vehicle in the possession of another, from his or her person or immediate presence, or from the person or immediate presence of a passenger of the motor vehicle” which is done “against his or her will and with the intent to either permanently or temporarily deprive the person in possession of the motor vehicle” and taken by “force or fear.”

If you're convicted of Carjacking, the penalty can be:

  • A state prison term of three (3), five (5), or nine (9) years.[29]

Note: Two rules should be understood at this point. First, it's possible to be convicted under both California Penal Code Section 211(Robbery) and California Penal Code Section 215 in the same trial. However, if you're tried for committing a single act that violates both 211 and 215, you can't be convicted under both statutes. In that situation the People have to choose to file charges under one statute or the other.[30]

More information on the crime of Carjacking is available here on our Ventura Violent Crime  page. If you have questions, contact any of the Kann Defense Group offices in Santa Clarita, Ventura, Encino, Pasadena,or Los Angeles/Los Angeles County.

California Jury Instructions – Carjacking

To convict you under PC §215, Carjacking, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you used force or fear and took a motor vehicle that wasn't yours. The People must also show that you took the vehicle in the immediate presence of its possessor (or a passenger) and that you did it against the person's will. Finally, the People must prove that you intended to take the vehicle temporarily or permanently.

Example: Defendant Deidre stops Victim Vanessa while Vanessa is behind the wheel of Deirdre's SUV. Deirdre bangs on the window, threatens to punch Vanessa if she doesn't get out of the vehicle, and takes it from Vanessa with the intention of permanently denying Vanessa its use. Vanessa doesn't want to surrender the SUV but she does it. May Defendant Deirdre be convicted of violating CPC §215?

Conclusion: While almost every element of the offense is present to convict Deirdre, the SUV was in fact Deirdre's. Since Deirdre didn't take a motor vehicle that wasn't her own, Defendant Deirdre cannot be convicted of violating California Penal Code §215. This is true even if Vanessa can find a way to press different charges against Deirdre.

Burglary

California Penal Code §459 describes the crime of Burglary, which occurs any time someone enters a building with the intent to commit a theft or felony inside the structure.

Burglaries inside homes, vessels, floating homes or trailers are first degree burglaries. All other forms of Burglary are in the second degree and they can be charged as felonies or misdemeanors.[31] This means that burglarizing a structure like a business is a “wobbler” offense under California law.[32]

If you're convicted of Burglary in the first degree, the penalty can be:

  • A term in the state prison of two (2), four (4), or six (6) years.[33]

If you're convicted of Burglary in the second degree as a felony, the penalty can be:

  • 16 months, two (2) years, or three (3) years in county jail.

If you're convicted of Burglary in the second degree as a misdemeanor, the penalty can be:

     * A term in county jail not to exceed one (1) year.[34]

Note: While Extortion and Burglary involve the intent to commit theft, Burglary requires no assent. The alleged burglar simply enters a structure and intends to commit a theft or felony. However, to be convicted, the burglar must form the intent to commit a theft or felony at or before the time of entering the structure.[35]

Please see our Burglary page for more information on this charge. Feel free to contact us at any of our offices in Santa Clarita, Ventura, Encino, Pasadena or Los Angeles/Los Angeles County.   

California Jury Instructions – Burglary

To convict you under California Penal Code §459, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you entered a building, a locked vehicle, or a structure. The prosecutor must also show that you entered intending to commit theft or a felony involving property worth more than $950, or that you entered a noncommercial establishment, or that you entered a commercial establishment.

Example: Defendant Douglas hides on Victim Vern's house boat. Vern is on the boat at the time. When Douglas encounters Vern he decides to threaten Vern into giving him $1000 cash. Vern does. Then Vern reports Douglas for Burglary. May Douglas be convicted of violating CPC §459?

Conclusion: Douglas definitely trespassed onto Vern's private houseboat. Additionally, he can be convicted of Robbery. Douglas cannot, however, be convicted of Burglary. He didn't form the intent to steal anything until he'd actually trespassed onto Vern's houseboat.

Kidnapping

The California Penal Code contains three sections for the crime of Kidnapping: PC §§207, §209 and 210. Kidnapping isn't the same as Extortion. A Kidnapping victim doesn't have to consent to providing anything. Extortion, by comparison, requires the victim consent to providing something valuable or performing an official act.

Kidnapping under PC §207 is defined as “forcibly, or by any other means of instilling fear, steal[ing] or tak[ing], or hold[ing], detain[ing], or arrest[ing] any person […] [ ] and carrying] the person into another country, state, or county, or into another part of the same county.”[36] Kidnapping is a felony offense.

If you're convicted of violating California Penal Code Section 207, the penalties may be:

  • A term in the county jail or prison[37] of three (3), five (5), or eight (8) years; OR,
  • A term of three (3), five (5), or eleven (11) years, if the victim is under the age of 14; AND,
  • A minimum of twelve (12) months in county jail, if Probation is granted.[38]

Biological parents, adoptive parents, natural fathers and those who, by court order, have access to minors under 14 are exempt from prosecution under the special subsection creating penalties for abducting minors.

CPC §209 makes it a crime to kidnap a person for ransom, robbery, or sex acts. There is one major difference between a kidnapping under Section 207 and Section 209. If, in the commission of the kidnapping, a person is killed, the punishment under Section 209 may be:

  • Life in prison without the possibility of parole.[39]

However, if no one dies during a kidnapping it will be prosecuted under Penal Code Section 209 because of risk of substantial bodily harm to the victim, the punishment may be:

  • Life in prison with the possibility of parole.[40]

There is another Kidnapping statute that should be noted. CPC §209.5(b) creates a special crime known as “Kidnapping During A Carjacking.” It's a fusion of the elements of Kidnapping and Carjacking.

If you're convicted of violating Section 209.5, the punishment may be:

  • Life imprisonment with the possibility of parole.

CPC §210 makes it a crime to represent yourself as having kidnapped a person or having aided and abetted a kidnapping for ransom. Posing as the perpetrator of a kidnapping is enough to violate §210.

If you're convicted of violating Section 210, the penalty may be:

  • A prison term of two (2), three (3), or four (4) years.[41]

Note: Section 210 doesn't prohibit offering to pay a ransom or perform an act to rescue a kidnapped person from danger.[42] However, if you commit Extortion during a Kidnapping, you should probably expect to be charged under Section 210 (a proper Kidnapping statute) and not California Penal Code Section 518, Extortion.

Please go to our page that explains the charge of Kidnapping here on our website. If you have questions, contact us here at the Kann Defense Group. We are available to discuss your case with you at any one of our office locations in Santa Clarita, Ventura, Encino, Pasadena or Los Angeles/Los Angeles County.

California Jury Instruction – Kidnapping

To convict you under §207, Kidnapping, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you took, held, or detained another person. The prosecutor must also show that you used force or fear, moved that person or made the person move a substantial distance,[43] and that the other person didn't consent to being moved. Finally, the prosecutor must prove that you shouldn't have believed the person consented.

Example: Defendant Dino is Victim Vince's neighbor. They've been arguing. Dino decides he's going to make Vince stay inside Dino's house until they've worked through their problems. Dino goes to Vince's house, pulls Vince over their adjoining wall, shoves him inside the house and locks the doors. Vince objects all the while. Dino knew Vince wouldn't stay inside Dino's house unless Dino forced him to do it. May Dino be convicted of violating §207 of the CPC?

Conclusion:  Dino doesn't have to move Vince a particular distance to be convicted of kidnapping him. He forced Vince to move as far as the neighboring house, and knowing that Vince didn't consent to being moved, held him there. Dino can be convicted of violating §207 of the California Penal Code. 

To convict you under §209, Kidnapping for Ransom, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you kidnapped another person. They must also prove that you held or intended to hold the other person for ransom or to commit Extortion. The prosecutor must show that the other person didn't consent to being kidnapped. Finally, the prosecutor must show that you had to know the person didn't consent to being taken.

Example:  Defendant Dino and Victim Vince have been fighting over which of them must pay for repairs to their adjoining wall. Dino decides he's going to make Vince stay inside Dino's house until Vince agrees to pay for the repairs, so he goes to Vince's house, pulls Vince over the adjoining wall, shoves him inside the house, and locks the doors. Vince objects all the while. Dino knew Vince wouldn't stay inside Dino's house unless Dino forced him to do it. May Dino be convicted of violating §209 of the CPC?

Conclusion:  Dino not only kidnapped Vince with force but intended on extorting the cost of repairing the fence when he got Vince into his house. He moved Vince against Vince's will, which he would've known, and held him there. Dino can be convicted of violating §209 of the California Penal Code.  

To convict you under §209.5, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed a Carjacking and detained a person who wasn't a carjacker by using force or fear. The prosecutor must also show that you moved the person or made the person move a substantial distance intending to commit or to get away with Carjacking. Finally, the People must prove that the person moved didn't consent to movement, which you had to have known.

Example: Victim Vannie, driving her SUV, stops late one night at a red light. Defendant Dano approaches Vannie's window, points a gun at Vannie, makes her get out of the vehicle and forces Vannie into the locked trunk. Vannie pleads with Dano not to move her or take her SUV. Dano is stopped a mile later and arrested. May Dano be convicted of violating §209.5 of the California Penal Code?

Conclusion: Dino makes Vannie get in the trunk under threat of death; Vannie clearly doesn't want to move or be moved from the front seat to the trunk, even if it seems an insignificant distance. Dano then closes the trunk, completing the crime of Kidnapping, and takes the SUV without permission. This is Carjacking. Dano may be convicted under §209.5 of the California Penal Code for Kidnapping involving a Carjacking.

What Can I Do If I'm Charged With Extortion?

The State of California regards Extortion as a serious crime. If you're charged with Extortion it's essential that you retain a skilled, dedicated criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your rights, freedom, and your livelihood are at stake. Remember, a professional criminal defense attorney may be able to:

  • Negotiate a lesser charge in a plea bargain;
  • Reduce your sentence;
  • Or even get charges dismissed completely.

The attorneys at the Kann California Defense Group have an excellent understanding of the local courts and an extensive knowledge of California's criminal justice system. We can represent you in Ventura, Santa Clarita, Los Angeles, Encino, Pasadena and many other Southern California cities. 

If you or someone you know has been arrested or charged with Extortion, our attorneys will analyze the facts of your case and plan a defense strategy that'll help you obtain the very best possible outcome.

Contact one of our local California criminal defense attorneys at the Kann California Defense Group today to schedule your free and confidential consultation today.

REFERENCES

[1] “Extortion under color of official right involves the obtaining of property from another under color of official right. It is the wrongful taking by a public officer of money or property not due to him or his office with or without force, threats, or use of fear.” See definition of “Extortion Under Color Of Official Right” at USLegal.com.

[2] People v. Peniston, 51 Cal. Rptr. 744 (Cal. Ct. App. Dist 1966) (victim's fear of losing children if she didn't pay defendant allowed judge or jury to conclude that victim acted in “fear” within the meaning of Code section).

[3] “Consent” can be express or implied. Black's Law Dictionary Online says that “[e]xpress consent is… directly given… [,][while] [i]mplied consent is… manifested by signs, actions, or facts, or by inaction or silence, which raise a presumption that the consent has been given.”

[4] Peniston (supra) (defendant Peniston demanded $10,000 from victim and settled for $1,000, satisfying receipt element of extortion charge under Section 518).

[5] The fine is established in CPC §672 (“Upon a conviction for any crime punishable by imprisonment in any jail or prison, in relation to which no fine is herein prescribed, the court may impose a fine on the offender not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000) in cases of misdemeanors or ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in cases of felonies, in addition to the imprisonment prescribed").

[6] See CPC §667.5(c)(19) (establishing that gang-related Extortion is a “violent felony” for purposes of “Three Strikes” law application).

[7] See California Criminal Jury Instructions 1830 (CALCRIM) (2017) (“Threatening to do something that a person has a legal right to do is not a threat to commit an unlawful injury”).

[8] Facts paralleling “Woman, Man Charged in Mark Jackson Extortion Case,” June 29, 2012 (SF Gate Online).

[9] See CPC §518(b) (regarding valuable consideration and equivalents).

[10] See, e.g., People v. Schmitz, 7 Cal.App.330 (1908) (in absence of evidence of actual threat to injure complainant restauranteurs, defendant Schmitz cannot be convicted of violating Section 518).

[11] See CPC §520 (establishing baseline penalties for Extortion that isn't Robbery or Carjacking).

[12] Same as above.

[13] See California Criminal Jury Instructions 1831 (CALCRIM) (2017) (“It is not required that the intended recipient actually give the defendant money or property or do an official act”).

[14] Facts paralleling People v. Umana, 128 Cal.App.4th 625 (2006) (defendants Umana and Langshaw, who did not receive money from any of the men from whom they attempted to extort, nonetheless violated Section 523 by sending letters demanding money in exchange for refraining from accusing intended victims of sexual assault).

[15] See California Criminal Jury Instructions 460 (CALCRIM) (2017) (“The defendant may be guilty of attempt even if you conclude that [the target offense] was actually completed”).

[16] See “Wobbler” definition at USLegal.com (“In California, Wobbler refers to a criminal offense that can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony. It ‘wobbles' between these two categories of offenses. It signifies a lesser felony offense that specifies fines or jail time as alternative punishments to state prison”).

[17] See CPC §524 (establishing penalties for Attempted Extortion).

[18] CPC §527 creates a very similar Misdemeanor Extortion offense for those who distribute, print, display or sell these documents. If you're convicted of violating §527 the penalties may be the same as those called for in §526.

[19] See CPC §19 (preliminary Code provision establishing penalties for Misdemeanor offenses).

[20] See CPC §68(establishing crime of Bribery for ministerial officers and government officials), §92 (establishing crime of Bribery for judicial officers), or §137 (establishing the crime of witness Bribery). 

[21] See CPC §68(a) (establishing penalties for bribing ministerial officers and government officials).

[22] See California Criminal Jury Instructions 2603 (CALCRIM) (2017) (“Requesting or agreeing to take a bribe does not require specific words or behavior, as long as the language used and the circumstances clearly show that the person is seeking a bribe from someone else”).

[23] Using facts culled from People v. Powell (195 P.463 (Cal.Ct.App. 1920)) (defendant, an employee of the City of Long Beach, appealed on several bases from judgment of guilt for violation of Section 518 of the CPC).

[24] See CPC §213(a) (1)(A) (establishing prison terms for first degree Robbery).

[25] See CPC §§213(B)(2) 213(B)(2) (establishing penalties for Robbery in the second degree).

[26] See California Criminal Jury Instructions 1600 (CALCRIM) (2017) (“An act is done against a person's will if that person does not consent to the act. In order to consent, a person must act freely and voluntarily and know the nature of the act”).

[27] Same as above (“When the defendant used force or fear, he or she intended to deprive the owner of the property permanently or to remove the property from the owner's possession for so extended a period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property”) (emphasis added).

[28] Denise not only takes the check through threat but also compels Vanya to sign a writing that creates a right to payment. On these facts, Defendant Denise also committed Extortion of Signature (§522 of the CPC).  

[29] See CPC §215(b) (establishing penalties for the crime of Carjacking).

[30] See CPC §215(c) (“A person may be charged with a violation of this section and Section 211. However, no defendant may be punished under this section and Section 211 for the same act which constitutes a violation of both this section and Section 211”).

[31] See CPC §460(a),(b) (defining first and second degree forms of Burglary).

[32] See CPC §461 (establishing penalties for first and second degree Burglary).

[33] See CPC §461(a) (establishing penalties for first degree Burglary).

[34] See CPC §461(b) (establishing penalty for second degree Burglary).

[35] See California Criminal Jury Instructions 1700 (CALCRIM) (2017) (“A burglary was committed if the defendant entered with the intent to commit theft or <one or more felonies>. The defendant does not need to have actually committed theft or <one or more felonies> as long as he or she entered with the intent to do so”) (emphasis added). (Instructions simplified for clarity.)

[36] CPC §207 ((b),(c)) also creates the crime of kidnapping by taking a person under the age of 14 to another county, state, or country, and the crime of kidnapping to make the victim a slave or involuntary servant.

[37]  “Except as provided in paragraph (3), a felony punishable pursuant to this subdivision where the term is not specified in the underlying offense shall be punishable by a term of imprisonment in a county jail for 16 months, or two or three years” so that “where the defendant (A) has a prior or current felony conviction for a serious felony described in subdivision (c) of Section 1192.7 or a prior or current conviction for a violent felony described in subdivision (c) of Section 667.5, (B) has a prior felony conviction in another jurisdiction for an offense that has all the elements of a serious felony described in subdivision (c) of Section 1192.7 or a violent felony described in subdivision (c) of Section 667.5, (C) is required to register as a sex offender pursuant to Chapter 5.5 (commencing with Section 290) of Title 9 of Part 1, or (D) is convicted of a crime and as part of the sentence an enhancement pursuant to Section 186.11 is imposed, an executed sentence for a felony punishable pursuant to this subdivision shall be served in state prison(CPC §§1170(h)(1), (3) (emphases added)).

[38] See CPC §208 (establishing penalties for Kidnapping and terms for Probation).

[39] See CPC §209(a).

[40] Same as above.

[41] See CPC §210 (establishing penalties for crime of posing as kidnapper or aiding and abetting a kidnapping).

[42] Same as above, Paragraph Two (“Nothing in this section prohibits any person who, in good faith believes that he can rescue any person who has been […] kidnapped […] from offering to rescue or obtain the release of such person for a monetary consideration or other thing of value”). 

[43] See California Criminal Jury Instructions 1215 (CALCRIM) (2017) (“Substantial distance means more than a slight or trivial distance. In deciding whether the distance was substantial, you must consider all the circumstances relating to the movement”) (original emphasis).

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